There are several Morrissey references in Boy George's new book Karma.
The book was published today.
I am British but equally Irish. Like that Morrissey song, ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’. Irish blood runs through me on both sides and a bit of Welsh too. I grew up in multiracial, eclectic, south-east London in the seventies.
Somewhere inside I know hatred is harmful to the self just as kindness is good for one’s own soul. I walk down the street and force myself to smile. I google how to be more fun. I want to know everyone’s star signs and I judge them accordingly. I have decided that it’s a person’s moon sign that really tells you the most about them. Morrissey is a Gemini like me, but the Scorpio moon makes him tricky. Like Mick Hucknall, another Gemini with a Scorpio moon.
People say to me, ‘You turn everything into a song,’ but that’s what songwriting is, taking words that already exist and lining them up for dramatic purpose. I have my go-to references, like Bowie obviously, Bolan, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Morrissey, Scott Walker, but also bands like Glasvegas, Nirvana, Cowboy Junkies, Rod Stewart and the Faces for sure, Paul Weller and Nina Simone.
Bleeding over a well-crafted pop song so that Philip could say ‘Look, I’m like Simon Cowell if he wore Westwood.’ I asked the boys who they wanted to sound like, and Morrissey was way ahead of Rihanna. My advice was to invest in a sound that told people who they are and I agreed to write with them. Philip hated my advice and kept screaming ‘Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna.’
Morrissey treated me and my friend Mike Nicholls like royalty and we were looked after by Sam Smith. Let’s put aside the fact we lived next door to each other for a few years but never really spoke. Sam had parties in his garden that I was never invited to, but we are at different ends of the life and fame experience. I could smell the weed wafting over the garden fence. I love the smell of weed especially with a bit of Clint Eastwood & General Saint. I have watched Sam have his existential crisis with fame and I recognise it. I have been that woman.
Morrissey was cold when I had tea with him in France in the mid-eighties. He called me ‘overbearing’ which I was at the time. I had no off button in those days and even less self-awareness. I had to go to prison before Morrissey was cool with me. I think I just talked relentlessly when I met him and even though we are both Geminis he has that Scorpio moon and I guess I was too soon is now. I love Morrissey as an artist, and I don’t need him to dance with me through the meadow.
I wrote an article for the Sunday Express for whom I did a weekly column for a couple of years. It was about how you can overlook a dislike of someone if you enjoy their work. I listed journalist and author Tony Parsons and Morrissey. I loved Parson’s book, Man and Boy despite a scathing article he wrote about me and George Michael. In it he called me disgusting and camp and not fit to walk alongside George Michael who was a dignified homosexual.
I also wrote about Morrissey and said how much I loved the album Maladjusted which was critically panned. It was like a great Bowie album and full of gorgeous pop songs like ‘Alma Matters’ and ‘Trouble Loves Me’. Me and Mike Nicholls played it relentlessly and would often stalk the house in a low-cut blouse. I wrote about our meeting in the eighties and said I still loved Morrissey despite everything. I must write that song. Morrissey left a message on my answerphone saying ‘we should talk’ but the message was garbled, and I couldn’t make out the number he left in LA. I met him again backstage at Alexandra Palace when he played and he said ‘Maladjusted? Really?’ I said, ‘Yes. Really!’
It’s taken me most of my career to realise that words are everything. I have often started with the song title before writing a song. If you write a song called ‘Karma Chameleon’ it will never be written by anyone else. ‘Because I Love You’ is a more accessible sentiment but I dig deeper into the word bag because of Bowie, Bolan, Dylan and Morrissey. I could never leave out Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell who once said to me over lunch, ‘It’s OK for you, no one ever called you a genius’. At the time I was deeply offended but she had just told me that ‘Dylan was a plagiarist’ and the ’The Beatles were okay but at least had a good sense of melody’.